For a mainly rural area of quaint villages and hillside farms often referred to as the “poor man’s Cotswolds”, in the Gloucestershire/Herefordshire region in England, the range of artisan foods and the high quality of such is exciting. And that includes some of England’s finest roasted coffee !
Peter James spent many years wielding a chefs knife, but knew his passions extended beyond the confines of a kitchen. Developing an interest in coffee that quickly became a sincere passion for this bean of the world, Peter has taken a small upstart idea of offering fine quality fresh roasted coffee to regional shops and cafes and grown it into one of the UK’s leading retail and wholesale roasteries with distribution across Europe and Russia. James’ Gourmet Coffee makes it’s home in an unassuming warehouse on the edge of the beautiful town of Ross-on-Wye. Peter along with his wife Anni select coffee of the highest quality from all over the globe (Ethiopia, Bazil, Guatemala…).Once in house, Peter focuses on the beans individuality and strengths which varies dramatically based upon the region it’s from and the flavor profile most desired. Roasting methods are as individual as the roaster themselves with temperature of the roast, blend of beans, and recommended brewing settings all being a factor in the final taste. A bean arriving in it’s natural state has the hull cleaned and is blue-green to pale yellow color. The large and loud roasters do just that, they roast the beans at a precise and preferred temperature, tossing round in a barrel compartment, all the while the “Roaster” is on hand listening for that all important cracking. To Peter’s preference Ethiopian beans for instance, are best pulled just after that crucial first crack. It reminded me much of how one pops popcorn, listening and smelling for that perfect moment of doneness. In just a short time the air begins to smell delicious and the roasted beans are dropped to a lower bin where they are spun and air cooled. Peter and his staff of 5 brew fresh daily, filling orders, and shipping or delivery within 24 hours of the roast. Peter and Anni pride themselves on providing the best in quality beans and roasting process as well as educating and informing their retailers on the best methods of grind and brewing for the individual coffees. After the roasting lesson Peter hosted me in a “Cupping” , coffee lingo for a tasting. We precisely ground 13oz of 3 varietals, Peter added an exact temperature and amount of water to each dish of ground coffee, stirring each with the same turns of a spoon, and then with a tasting sheet nearby he instructed me on proper cupping. Spoon in hand we slurped and inhaled simultaneously, swishing coffee to and fro, then spitting into a side cup. Noting aroma, feel in mouth, and flavor. Each was “tasted” 4 times, with flavors and aromas changing as temperatures dropped and time of standing. I was amazed at the flavors and interesting components that were coming through as my awareness was focused and informed. I’ve never been a true coffee connoisseur, but after spending the afternoon with Peter at the James Gourmet Coffee Roastery, my tastes have been enlightened and turned on. I honestly look forward to tomorrow mornings fresh pressed pot !
With only about 7% of sales being online retail, the wholesale distribution is great and annual sales for this small independent company well exceed a half a million a year. Proving that small business and high quality of product are appreciated and in great demand even in these hard economic times.
Here is a handy coffee tasting chart developed by the Specialty Coffee Association of America so you can host your own “cupping” !